Yesterday was my first time singing in church since my surgery…and my last time before getting married and moving away from home and the church I grew up in. After much recovery from surgery, I’ve been practicing bits and pieces at a time, because long periods of singing still cause pressure and pain in my head (I’m working up to overcome this! Patience, patience…) I’ve been playing around with the old Hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” recently, and the lyrics, written by the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, Reginald Heber, are just so incredibly stirring! The tune we know today was written by John Bacchus Dykes in 1861. I added a simple bridge to it, “You are holy, My God. Thou art holy, Lord God,” personalizing the cry of worship from an unworthy sinner to a holy, mighty, powerful God. I love this hymn so much because it truly points to the greatness of God. This song is not about us, it’s about the Lord Almighty. And really, life isn’t about us, as much as we’d like to think it is…it’s about God’s purpose and power, His will and glory. This tried-and-true church anthem is an adoring cry to our Heavenly Father, proclaiming that we know His place and we know our place. In Hebrews 4:16, God calls us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” With confidence? When we are so unworthy and so small in comparison to His holiness? That’s right. With confidence, because Jesus has paid it all. His mercy is what opens the doors to His throne and presence; it’s what allows us to enter into worship and to cry out to the Father in the first place.
I can tell you, like never before, have I needed to approach that throne of grace to find help in time of need. This has been a year when bowing my head to receive His all-sufficient grace has been the most important thing every single day. From months of great unknown to months of recovery…following that, months of walking my future husband through his own medical trial of ups and downs fighting cancer, all the while building so many friendships with others fighting similar battles…God’s grace is the only sustaining power we have. His Holy grace.
There I was, singing out on Sunday morning- I pictured all the saints casting down their crowns around a glassy sea. All of us sinner and believers and worshippers and saved souls laying down our earthly crowns that we collect, in humble adoration, bowing ourselves in awe before our Mighty God. I pictured the angels- cherubim and seraphim and all the rest- falling down prostrate with us before the throne of the Almighty. I thought of how our sinful eyes cannot even glimpse upon His full glory, or surely we would die. Exodus 24:17 tell us that “to the Israelites, the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” As I sang, I thought about the world we live in where babies are being slaughtered and their bodies are sold in pieces, where men and women are cheating on their spouses and buying cheap, counterfeit love on the internet. Where our eyes look with greed and covet and anger and lust at objects around us, and insecurity and selfishness in the mirror in front of us…To look upon just a hint of the holiness of God with those same eyes would cause our knees to buckle, our hearts to crumble, and our complete selves bowing before Him!
I sang, realizing that only the power of a Holy God could miraculously lead me to a surgeon across the country who was able to successfully remove a tumor in my brain that should have left me deaf and blind and so much more…I sang, realizing that only the power of a Holy God could restore me to sing 6 months later without fear or hesitation. I sang, realizing that only the power of a Holy God is the sustaining grace right now for countless friends going through their own journeys and waiting for miracles in the midst of job loss, loneliness, sickness, and heartache…I sang realizing that this world is not free from pain, but “these sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” as God promises us in Romans 8:18.
Tears welled in my eyes and fell down my cheeks after singing yesterday morning…the body of Christ surrounding me, giving applause to God for the work He has done, and a sweet goodbye to my church family as I’ll be walking into a new season of life- marriage and a move. It was one of those holy moments in one’s life where God just seemed to smile at His children, while His children lifted up their hearts in praise. Today was back at the hospital for the start of a new chemo week. The memory of yesterday morn still ringing in my spirit with praise to the Lord…Today was back to the mundane, the pain, the process of my dearest loved one conquering cancer through slow and draining chemotherapy. The spark of Sunday morning was over…but was it? A smoldering flicker remained. We saw our friend Tom, who comes every Monday for his chemo treatments. Tom stands up every Sunday at his church and preaches hope to his congregation as he pastors his flock fearlessly and faithfully. Tom was our first friend at chemo. He and Jamie started the same day, sitting next to each other, and instantly they connected and our families connected. Seeing him each week reminds us of our holy, powerful God, because of Tom’s faithful witness. Then another unexpected divine appointment this Monday! We bumped into a friend of mine I haven’t seen since probably high school! I had heard that her husband was going through cancer, but I didn’t realize they were getting treatment at the same hospital! So there we were, a reunited friendship in the halls of the hospital, laughing and lifting one another up, one day before her John goes in for a bone marrow transplant. This was no random encounter- this was only the power of a Holy God, only another providential meeting of friends to point us toward that throne of grace, where we find help in time of need.